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Exploring the Sysmaster Database

by Lester Knutsen

When you list all the databases on your INFORMIX server, you will see one called "sysmaster". This is a special database and is one of the new features that first appeared in INFORMIX-OnLine DSA 6.x and 7.x. This is a database that contains tables that can be used for monitoring your system. These are referred to as the System Monitoring Interface (SMI) tables. In this chapter we will explore some of the tables and views that are in this database.

The sysmaster database is described as a pseudo database. That means most of its tables are not normal tables on disk, but pointers to shared memory structures in the OnLine engine. The sysmaster database contains over 120 tables. Only 18 of these tables are documented in the INFORMIX-OnLine Dynamic Server Administrator's Guide, Volume 2, Chapter 38. The rest are undocumented and described by Informix as for internal use. The examples and references in this article are based on OnLine 7.23. I have also tested some of the examples with versions 7.10, 7.12, and 7.22. There are some minor changes between versions in the undocumented features and structures of these tables.

A warning: Some of the features discussed in this article are based on undocumented SMI tables and may change or not work in future versions of INFORMIX OnLine DSA.

This article will focus on users, server configuration, dbspaces, chunks, tables, and monitoring IO using the sysmaster database. We will present how to create scripts to monitor the following:

  • List who is using each database.
  • Display information about your server configuration.
  • Display how much free space is available in each dbspace in a format like the Unix df command.
  • List the status and characteristics of each chunk device.
  • Display blocks of free space within a chunk. This allows you to plan where to put large tables without fragmenting them.
  • Display IO statistics by chunk devices.
  • Display IO usage of chunk devices as a percent of the total IO, and show which chunks are getting used the most.
  • Display tables and the number of extents, and number of pages used.
  • Present a layout of dbspace, databases, tables, and extents similar to the command "tbcheck -pe".
  • Show table usage statistics sorted by which tables have the most reads, writes, or locks.
  • Show statistics of users sessions.
  • Show locks and users who are waiting on locks.

1. A Practical Example - Who is Using What Database

Let's begin with a very practical example of the sysmaster database's value.

My interest in this database started a couple of years ago, while consulting on a project for a development group where I needed to know who had a database open and which workstation they were using to connect to the database. This was a development environment and there were continual changes to the database schemas. In order to make updates to the database schema, I would have to get the developers to disconnect from the database. The "onstat -u" utility would tell me which users were connected to the server, but not what database and what workstation they were using. "Onstat -g ses" told me the user and workstation, but not the database. "Onstat -g sql told me the session id and database, but not the user name and workstation. After some debugging, I found all the information I wanted in the sysmaster database. And, because it was a database, I could retrieve it with SQL queries. The following query shows the database, who has it open, the workstation they are connected from, and the session id.

Figure 1. Dbwho SQL script

-- dbwho.sql

select database,             -- Database Name

                syssessions.username,           -- User Name

                syssessions.hostname,           -- Workstation

                syslocks.owner sid              -- Informix Session ID

from    syslocks, sysdatabases , outer syssessions

where   syslocks.tabname = "sysdatabases"       -- Find locks on sysdatabases

and             syslocks.rowidlk = sysdatabases.rowid -- Join rowid to database

and     syslocks.owner = syssessions.sid        -- Session ID to get user info

order by 1;

Every user that opens a database opens a shared lock on the row in the sysdatabases table of the sysmaster database that points to that database. First we need to find all the locks in syslocks on the sysdatabases table. This gives us the rowid in sysdatabase which has the database name. Finally, we join with the table syssessions to get the username and hostname. I put all this together in a shell script that can be run from the unix prompt and called it dbwho. Figure 2 contains the shell script.

Figure 2. Dbwho shell script



# Program: dbwho

# Author:  Lester Knutsen

# Date:    10/28/1995

# Description: List database, user and workstation of all db users


echo "Generating list of users by database ..."

dbaccess sysmaster - <<EOF




        syslocks.owner sid

from  syslocks, sysdatabases , outer syssessions

where syslocks.rowidlk = sysdatabases.rowid

and   syslocks.tabname = "sysdatabases"

and   syslocks.owner = syssessions.sid

order by 1;


One of the first things you will notice is that this script is slow. This led me to start digging into what was causing the slow performance. Running this query with set explain turned on (this shows the query optimizer plan) shows that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes. Syslocks is a view, and it takes a sequential scan of six tables to produce the view. A temp table is created to hold the results of the syslocks view, and this is then joined with the other two tables. The tables sysdatabase and syssessions are also views. And the view syssessions uses a stored procedure, called bitval. Figure 3 contains the output from turning set explain on. In spite of these queries sometimes being a bit slow, these tables are a tremendous value and make it much easier to monitor your database server.

Figure 3: Output from "set explain on" for dbwho.sql


create view "informix".syslocks         


as      select x1.dbsname ,x1.tabname ,x0.rowidr ,x0.keynum ,

        x4.txt [1,4] ,x3.sid ,x5.sid 

        from    "informix".syslcktab x0 ,

                "informix".systabnames x1 ,

                "informix".systxptab x2 ,

                "informix".sysrstcb x3 ,

                "informix".flags_text x4 ,

                outer("informix".sysrstcb x5 ) 

        where ((((((x0.partnum = x1.partnum ) 

        AND (x0.owner = x2.address ) ) 

        AND (x2.owner = x3.address ) ) 

        AND (x0.wtlist = x5.address ) ) 

        AND (x4.tabname = 'syslcktab' ) ) 

        AND (x4.flags = x0.type ) ) ;

Estimated Cost: 713

Estimated # of Rows Returned: 51

1) informix.syslcktab: SEQUENTIAL SCAN

2) informix.flags_text: SEQUENTIAL SCAN

    Filters: informix.flags_text.tabname = 'syslcktab' 


    Dynamic Hash Filters: informix.syslcktab.type = informix.flags_text.flags 

3) informix.systxptab: SEQUENTIAL SCAN


    Dynamic Hash Filters: informix.syslcktab.owner =


4) informix.systabnames: SEQUENTIAL SCAN

    Filters: informix.systabnames.tabname = 'sysdatabases' 


    Dynamic Hash Filters: informix.syslcktab.partnum


5) informix.sysrstcb: SEQUENTIAL SCAN


    Dynamic Hash Filters: informix.systxptab.owner = informix.sysrstcb.address

6) informix.sysrstcb: SEQUENTIAL SCAN


    Dynamic Hash Filters: informix.syslcktab.wtlist =



select database,



        syslocks.owner sid

from  syslocks, sysdatabases, outer syssessions

where syslocks.rowidlk = sysdatabases.rowid

and   syslocks.tabname = "sysdatabases"

and   syslocks.owner = syssessions.sid

order by 1

Estimated Cost: 114

Estimated # of Rows Returned: 11

Temporary Files Required For: Order By  

1) (Temp Table For View): SEQUENTIAL SCAN

2) informix.sysdbspartn: INDEX PATH

    (1) Index Keys: ROWID

        Lower Index Filter: informix.sysdbspartn.ROWID = (Temp Table For   


3) informix.sysscblst: INDEX PATH

    (1) Index Keys: sid (desc) 

        Lower Index Filter: informix.sysscblst.sid = (Temp Table For  


4) informix.sysrstcb: AUTOINDEX PATH

    Filters: informix.bitval(informix.sysrstcb.flags ,'0x80000' )= 1 

    (1) Index Keys: scb 

        Lower Index Filter: = informix.sysscblst.address

2. How the Sysmaster Database is Created

The sysmaster database keeps track of information about the database server just like the system tables keep track of information in each database. This database is automatically created when you initialize OnLine. It includes tables for tracking two types of information: the System Monitoring Interface (SMI) tables, and the On-Archive catalog tables. This article will focus on the SMI tables. There is a warning in the documentation not to change any information in these tables as it may corrupt your database server. Also there is a warning that OnLine does not lock these tables, and that all selects from this database will use an isolation level of dirty read. This means that the data can change dynamically as you are retrieving it. This also means that selecting data from the sysmaster tables does not lock any of your users from processing their data. As mentioned above, the SMI tables are described as pseudo-tables which point directly to the shared memory structures in OnLine where the data is stored. That means they are not actually on disk. However, because many of the SMI tables are really views, selecting from them does create temporary tables and generate disk activity.

A script located in your directory $INFORMIXDIR/etc. named sysmaster.sql contains the SQL statements to create the sysmaster database. The process of creating it is interesting and outlined as follows:

  • First the script creates real tables with the structures of the pseudo tables.
  • Then, the table structures of the real tables are copied to temp tables.
  • The real tables are then dropped.
  • The column in systables that contains partnum is updated to indicate they point to pseudo tables in shared memory.
  • The flags_text table is created which has the interpretations for all the text descriptions and flags used in the SMI tables.
  • The stored procedures are created that are used to create the views, two of which may be interesting:
- bitval() is a stored procedure for getting the boolean flag values
- l2date() is a stored procedure for converting unix time() long values to dates
  • Finally the script creates the SMI views.
  • After the sysmaster script is run the system will execute another script to create the on-archive tables and views in the sysmaster database.

Warning: The sysmaster database is created the first time you go into online mode after you first initialize your system. Do NOT start creating any other database until this process is complete or you may corrupt your sysmaster database. You will need 2000 KB of logical log space to create the sysmaster database. If there are problems creating the sysmaster database, shut your OnLine server down and restart it. This will re-create the sysmaster database. Monitor your online.log file until you see the messages showing the successful completion of building the sysmaster database in the online.log (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Online.log messages showing successful creation of sysmaster database

12:10:24  On-Line Mode

12:10:24  Building 'sysmaster' database ...

12:11:02  Logical Log 1 Complete.

12:11:03  Process exited with return code 1: /bin/sh /bin/sh -c 

        /u3/informix7/ 2 23 "Logical Log 1 Complete." "Logical Log 1 Complete."

12:11:22  Logical Log 2 Complete.

12:11:23  Process exited with return code 1: /bin/sh /bin/sh -c 

        /u3/informix7/ 2 23 "Logical Log 2 Complete." "Logical Log 2 Complete."

12:11:26  Checkpoint Completed:  duration was 3 seconds.

12:11:40  Logical Log 3 Complete.

12:11:41  Process exited with return code 1: /bin/sh /bin/sh -c 

        /u3/informix7/ 2 23 "Logical Log 3 Complete." "Logical Log 3 Complete."

12:11:59  Logical Log 4 Complete.

12:12:00  Process exited with return code 1: /bin/sh /bin/sh -c 

        /u3/informix7/ 2 23 "Logical Log 4 Complete." "Logical Log 4 Complete."

12:12:25  'sysmaster' database built successfully.

Supported SMI Tables

There are 18 supported SMI tables in release 7.23 of INFORMIX-OnLine DSA. We will discuss the more important ones and a few unsupported ones in this chapter.

Sysmaster ERDiagram


Figure 5. Supported SMI tables

Supported tables and views:  (OnLine 7.23)

sysadtinfo              Auditing configuration table

sysaudit                Auditing event masks table

syschkio                Chunk I/O statistics view

syschunks               Chunk information view

sysconfig               Configuration information view

sysdatabases            Database information view

sysdbslocale            Locale information view

sysdbspaces             Dbspace information view

sysdri                  Data replication view

sysextents              Table extent allocation view

syslocks                Current lock information view

syslogs                 Logical Log status view

sysprofile              Current system profile view

sysptptof               Current table profile view

syssessions             Current user sessions view

sysseswts               Session wait times view

systabnames             Table information table

sysvpprof               Current VP profile view

Differences From Other Databases

There are several key differences between the sysmaster database and other databases you might create. Reminder that this is a database that points to the server's shared memory structures and not to tables that are stored on disk. Some of the differences are:

  • You cannot update the sysmaster database. Its purpose is to allow you to read information about the server. Trying to update its tables should generate an error message but may corrupt the server.
  • You cannot run dbschema on these table to get their structure. This will generate and error message.
  • You cannot drop the sysmaster database or any tables within it. Again, this should generate an error message.
  • The data is dynamic and may change while you are retrieving it. The sysmaster database has an effective isolation level of dirty read even though it looks like a database with unbuffered logging. This prevents your queries from locking users and slowing down their processing.
  • However, because the sysmaster database uses unbuffered logging, its temp tables are logged.
  • You can create triggers and stored procedures on the sysmaster database, but the triggers will never be executed. Again, this is because this is not a real database but pointers to shared memory.

The sysmaster database reads the same shared memory structures read by the command line utility "onstat". The statistical data is reset to zero when OnLine is shut down and restarted.

It is also reset to zero when the "onstat -z" command to reset statistics is used. Individual user statistical data is lost when a user disconnects from the server.

Now, let's examine some of the more interesting tables in the sysmaster database and what else can be done with them.

3. Server Information

This first section will look at how you determine the state and configuration of your INFORMIX-OnLine server from the sysmaster database. We will look at four tables and how to use them.

Server configuration and statistics tables:

  • sysconfig - ONCONFIG File
  • sysprofile - Server Statistics
  • syslogs - Logical Logs
  • sysvpprof - Virtual Processors

Server Configuration Parameters: sysconfig

The view sysonfig contains configuration information from the OnLine server. This information was read from the ONCONFIG file when the server was started. Have you ever needed to know from within a program how your server was setup? Or, what TAPEDEV is set to?

View sysconfig


Column          Data Type       Description

        cf_id           integer         unique numeric identifier

        cf_name         char(18)        config parameter name

        cf_flags        integer         flags, 0 = in view sysconfig

        cf_original     char(256)       value in ONCONFIG at boottime

        cf_effective    char(256)       value effectively in use

        cf_default      char(256)       value by default

Example queries:

To find out what the current tape device is:
select cf_effective from sysconfig where cf_name = "TAPEDEV";
To find the server name:
select cf_effective from sysconfig where cf_name =
To find out if data replication is turned on:
select cf_effective from sysconfig where cf_name = "DRAUTO";

Server Profile Information: sysprofile

The sysprofile table is a view based on values in a table called syshmhdr. Syshmhdr points to the same shared memory area as the onstat utility with the -p option. When you zero out the statistics with "onstat -z", all values in the syshmhdr table are reset to zero.

View sysprofile


Column          Data Type       Description

        name            char(16)        profile element name 

        value           integer         current value

One of the best uses of this data is for developing alarms when certain values fall below acceptable levels. The Informix documentation says that tables in the sysmaster database do not run triggers. This is because the updates to these tables take place within OnLine shared memory and not through SQL which activates triggers. However, you can create a program to poll this table at specified intervals to select data and see if it falls below your expectations.

Logical Logs Information: syslogs

Syslogs is a view based on the table syslogfil. This is an example where the SMI views are a great tool in presenting the data in a more understandable format. Syslogfil has a field called flags which contains status information encoded in boolean smallint. The view syslogs decodes that data into six fields: is_used, is_current, is_backed_up, is_new, is_archived, and is_temp, with a 1 if true or a 0 if false.

View syslogs


Column          Data Type       Description

        number          smallint        logfile number 

        uniqid          integer         logfile uniqid 

        size            integer         pages in logfile 

        used            integer         pages used in logfile 

        is_used         integer         1 for used, 0 for free

        is_current      integer         1 for current

        is_backed_up    integer         1 for backuped

        is_new          integer         1 for new

        is_archived     integer         1 for archived

        is_temp         integer         1 for temp

        flags           smallint        logfile flags

Virtual Processor Information and Statistics: sysvpprof

Sysvpprof is another view that is more readable than the underlying table sysvplst. As with the view syslogs in the above paragraph, this view has data that is converted to make it more understandable. This time the flags are converted to text descriptions from the flags_text table.

View sysvpprof


Column          Data Type       Description

        vpid            integer         VP id

        txt             char(50)        VP class name

        usecs_user      float           number of unix secs of user time

        usecs_sys       float           number of unix secs of system time

The following query on the base table sysvplst achieves the same results as the view.

Figure 6. SQL script to display VP status

-- vpstat.sql

select  vpid,

        txt[1,5] class,





from    sysvplst a, flags_text b

where   a.flags != 6

and     a.class = b.flags

and b.tabname = 'sysvplst';


SQL Output

       vpid class         pid     usecs_user      usecs_sys   num_ready


          1 cpu           335         793.61          30.46           0  

          2 adm           336           0.02           0.11           0  

          3 lio           337           1.15           5.98           0  

          4 pio           338           0.19           1.13           0  

          5 aio           339           0.94           4.27           0  

          6 msc           340           0.15           0.14           0  

          7 aio           341           0.81           5.72           0  

          8 tli           342           1.79           3.02           0  

          9 aio           343           0.52           2.50           0  

         10 aio           344           0.28           1.16           0  

         11 aio           345           0.09           0.86           0  

         12 aio           346           0.16           0.48           0  

4. Dbspace and Chunk Information

Now let's look at the SMI tables that contain information about your disk space, chunks, and dbspace. There are four tables that contain this data.

  • sysdbspaces - DB Spaces
  • syschunks - Chunks
  • syschkio - I/O by Chunk
  • syschfree* - Free Space by Chunk

* Note: Syschfree is not a supported table.

Dbspace Configuration: sysdbspaces

The sysmaster database has three key tables containing dbspace and chunk information. The first one is sysdbspaces. This is a view that interprets the underlying table sysdbstab. Sysdbspaces serves two purposes: it translates a bit field containing flags into separate columns where 1 equals yes and 0 equals no, and, it allows the underlying table to change between releases without having to change code. The view is defined as follows:

View sysdbspaces


Column          Data Type       Description

        dbsnum          smallint        dbspace number, 

        name            char(18)        dbspace name, 

        owner           char(8)         dbspace owner, 

        fchunk          smallint        first chunk in dbspace, 

        nchunks         smallint        number of chunks in dbspace,

        is_mirrored     bitval          is dbspace mirrored, 1=Yes, 0=No

        is_blobspace    bitval          is dbspace a blob space, 1=Yes, 2=No

        is_temp         bitval          is dbspace temp, 1=Yes, 2=No

        flags           smallint        dbspace flags

The columns of type bitval are the flags that are extracted from the flags column by a stored procedure called bitval when the view is generated.

Chunk Configuration: syschunks

The syschunks table is also a view based on two actual tables, one for primary chunk information, syschktab, and one for mirror chunk information, sysmchktab. The following is the layout of syschunks:

View syschunks


Column          Data Type       Description

        chknum          smallint        chunk number 

        dbsnum          smallint        dbspace number

        nxchknum        smallint        number of next chunk in dbspace

        chksize         integer         pages in chunk

        offset          integer         pages offset into device 

        nfree           integer         free pages in chunk

        is_offline      bitval          is chunk offline, 1=Yes, 0=No

        is_recovering   bitval          is chunk recovering, 1=Yes, 0=No

        is_blobchunk    bitval          is chunk blobchunk, 1=Yes, 0=No

        is_inconsistent bitval          is chunk inconsistent, 1=Yes, 0=No

        flags           smallint        chunk flags converted by bitval

        fname           char(128)       device pathname

        mfname          char(128)       mirror device pathname

        moffset         integer         pages offset into mirror device 

        mis_offline     bitval          is mirror offline, 1=Yes, 0=No 

        mis_recovering  bitval          is mirror recovering, 1=Yes, 0=No

        mflags          smallint        mirror chunk flags

Displaying Free Dbspace

Now, we will take a look at several ways to use this dbspace and chunk information. One capability I have always wanted is a way to show the amount of dbspace used and free in the same format as the Unix "df -k" command. The sysmaster database contains information about the dbspaces and chunks, so this can be generated with an SQL script. The following is an SQL script to generate the amount of free space in a dbspace. It uses the sysdbspaces and syschunks tables to collect its information.

Figure 7. SQL script to display free dbspace

-- dbsfree.sql - display free dbspace like Unix "df -k " command

database sysmaster;

select  name[1,8] dbspace,              -- name truncated to fit on one line

        sum(chksize) Pages_size,        -- sum of all chunks size pages

        sum(chksize) - sum(nfree) Pages_used,

        sum(nfree) Pages_free,          -- sum of all chunks free pages

        round ((sum(nfree)) / (sum(chksize)) * 100, 2) percent_free

from    sysdbspaces d, syschunks c

where   d.dbsnum = c.dbsnum

group by 1

order by 1;

Sample output

dbspace        pages_size      pages_used       pages_free     percent_free

rootdbs             50000           13521            36479            72.96

dbspace1           100000           87532            12468            12.47

dbspace2           100000           62876            37124            37.12

dbspace3           100000             201            99799            99.80

Displaying Chunk Status

The next script lists the status and characteristics of each chunk device.

Figure 8. SQL script showing chunk status

-- chkstatus.sql - display information about a chunk

database sysmaster;


        name dbspace,           -- dbspace name

        is_mirrored,            -- dbspace is mirrored 1=Yes 0=No

        is_blobspace,           -- dbspace is blobspace 1=Yes 0=No

        is_temp,                -- dbspace is temp 1=Yes 0=No

        chknum chunknum,        -- chunk number

        fname  device,          -- dev path

        offset dev_offset,      -- dev offset

        is_offline,             -- Offline 1=Yes 0=No

        is_recovering,          -- Recovering 1=Yes 0=No

        is_blobchunk,           -- Blobspace 1=Yes 0=No

        is_inconsistent,        -- Inconsistent 1=Yes 0=No

        chksize Pages_size,     -- chunk size in pages

        (chksize - nfree) Pages_used, -- chunk pages used

        nfree Pages_free,       -- chunk free pages

        round ((nfree / chksize) * 100, 2) percent_free, -- free

        mfname mirror_device,   -- mirror dev path

        moffset mirror_offset,  -- mirror dev offset

        mis_offline ,           -- mirror offline 1=Yes 0=No

        mis_recovering          -- mirror recovering  1=Yes 0=No

from    sysdbspaces d, syschunks c

where d.dbsnum = c.dbsnum

order by dbspace, chunknum

Displaying Blocks of Free Space in a Chunk: syscchfree

In planning expansions, new databases, or when adding new tables to an existing server, I like to know what blocks of contiguous free space are available. This allows placing new tables in dbspaces where they will not be broken up by extents. One of the sysmaster tables tracks the chunk free list, which is the available space in a chunk.

Table syschfree


Column          Data Type       Description

        chknum          integer         chunk number                 

        extnum          integer         extent number in chunk       

        start           integer         physical addr of start       

        leng            integer         length of extent             

The next script uses this table to create a list of free space and the size of each space that is available.

Figure 9. SQL script showing free space on chunks

-- chkflist.sql - display list of free space within a chunk

database sysmaster;


        name dbspace,   -- dbspace name truncated to fit

        f.chknum,               -- chunk number

        f.extnum,               -- extent number of free space

        f.start,                -- starting address of free space

        f.leng free_pages       -- length of free space

from    sysdbspaces d, syschunks c, syschfree f

where d.dbsnum = c.dbsnum

and      c.chknum = f.chknum

order by dbspace, chknum

Sample Output 

dbspace                 chknum      extnum       start  free_pages

rootdbs                      1           0       11905        1608

rootdbs                      1           1       15129       34871

IO Statistics by Chunk Devices: syschkio

Informix uses a view, syschkio, to collect information about the number of disk reads and writes per chunk. This view is based on the tables syschktab and symchktab.

View syschkio 


Column          Data Type       Description

        chunknum        smallint        chunk number

        reads           integer         number of read ops

        pagesread       integer         number of pages read

        writes          integer         number of write ops

        pageswritten    integer         number of pages written

        mreads          integer         number of mirror read ops

        mpagesread      integer         number of mirror pages read

        mwrites         integer         number of mirror write ops

        mpageswritten   integer         number of mirror pages written

The following script displays IO usage of chunk devices. It uses the base tables so the mirror chunks can be displayed on separate rows. It also joins with the base table that contains the dbspace name.

Figure 10. SQL script displaying chunk I/O

-- chkio.sql - displays chunk IO status

database sysmaster;


        name[1,10] dbspace,     -- truncated to fit 80 char screen line


        "Primary" chktype,




from    syschktab c, sysdbstab d

where   c.dbsnum = d.dbsnum

union all

        name[1,10]      dbspace,


        "Mirror"    chktype,




from    sysmchktab c, sysdbstab d

where   c.dbsnum = d.dbsnum

order by 1,2,3; 

Sample Output

dbspace    chknum chktype       reads      writes   pagesread pageswritten

rootdbs        1  Primary       74209      165064      209177       308004

rootdbs        1  Mirror        69401      159832      209018       307985

A better view of your IO is to see the percent of the total IO that takes place per chunk. This next query collects IO stats into a temp table, and then uses that to calculate total IO stats for all chunks. Then each chunk's IO is compared with the total to determine the percent of IO by chunk. The following script uses the one above as a basis to show IO by chunk as a percent of the total IO.

Figure 11. SQL script chunk I/O summary

-- chkiosum.sql - calculates percent of IO by chunk

database sysmaster;

-- Collect chunk IO stats into temp table A


        name dbspace,


        "Primary" chktype,




from    syschktab c, sysdbstab d

where   c.dbsnum = d.dbsnum

union all

        name[1,10]      dbspace,


        "Mirror"    chktype,




from    sysmchktab c, sysdbstab d

where   c.dbsnum = d.dbsnum

into temp A;

-- Collect total IO stats into temp table B


        sum(reads) total_reads,

        sum(writes) total_writes,

        sum(pagesread) total_pgreads,

        sum(pageswritten) total_pgwrites

from A

into temp B;

-- Report showing each chunks percent of total IO




        round((reads/total_reads) *100, 2) percent_reads,

        round((writes/total_writes) *100, 2) percent_writes,

        round((pagesread/total_pgreads) *100, 2) percent_pg_reads,

        round((pageswritten/total_pgwrites) *100, 2) percent_pg_writes

from    A, B

order by 11;-- order by percent page writes

Sample output for 1 chunk

dbspace                 datadbs

chknum                  9

chktype                 Primary

reads                   12001

writes                  9804

pagesread               23894

pageswritten            14584

percent_reads           0.33

percent_writes          0.75

percent_pg_reads        37.59

percent_pg_writes       1.86

5. Database and Table Information

The next five tables we will look at store information on your tables and extents. They are:

  • sysdatabases - Databases
  • systabnames - Tables
  • sysextents - Tables extents
  • sysptprof - Tables I/O

Information on All Databases on a Server: sysdatabases

This view has data on all databases on a server. Have you ever needed to create a pop-up list of databases within a program? This table now allows programs to give users a list of databases to select from without resorting to ESQL/C. The following is the definition of this view:

View sysdatabases 


Column          Data Type       Description

        name            char(18)        database name

        partnum         integer         table id for systables

        owner           char(8)         user name of creator

        created         integer         date created

        is_logging      bitval          unbuffered logging, 1=Yes, 0= No

        is_buff_log     bitval          buffered logging, 1=Yes, 0= No

        is_ansi         bitval          ANSI mode database, 1=Yes, 0= No

        is_nls          bitval          NLS support, 1=Yes, 0= No

        flags           smallint        flags indicating logging

The following is a script to list all databases, owners, dbspaces, and logging status. Notice the function dbinfo is used. This is a new function in 7.X with several uses, one of which is to convert the partnum of a database into its corresponding dbspace. This function will be used in several examples that follow.

Figure 12. SQL script listing all databases on the server

-- dblist.sql - List all databases, owner and logging status

database sysmaster;


        dbinfo("DBSPACE",partnum) dbspace,

        name database,




from sysdatabases

order by dbspace, name;

Sample Output

dbspace            database           owner     is_logging is_buff_log

rootdbs            central            lester             0           0

rootdbs            datatools          lester             0           0

rootdbs            dba                lester             0           0

rootdbs            roster             lester             0           0

rootdbs            stores7            lester             0           0

rootdbs            sunset             linda              0           0

rootdbs            sysmaster          informix           1           0

rootdbs            zip                lester             1           1

Information About Database Tables: systabnames, sysextents, and sysptprof

Three tables contain all the data you need from the sysmaster database about tables in your database. The first of these is a real table defined as follows:

Table systabnames - All tables on the server


Column          Data Type       Description

        partnum         integer         table id for table

        dbsname         char(18)        database name

        owner           char(8)         table owner

        tabname         char(18)        table name

        collate         char(32)        collation assoc with NLS DB  

View sysextents - Tables and each extent on the server


Column          Data Type       Description

        dbsname         char(18)        database name

        tabname         char(18)        table name

        start           integer         physical addr for this extent

        size            integer         size of this extent

The view sysextents is based on a table, sysptnext, defined as follows:

Table sysptnext


Column          Data Type       Description

        pe_partnum      integer         partnum for this partition   

        pe_extnum       smallint        extent number                

        pe_phys         integer         physical addr for this extent

        pe_size         integer         size of this extent          

        pe_log          integer         logical page for start       

View sysptprof  - Tables IO profile


Column          Data Type       Description

        dbsname         char(18)        database name

        tabname         char(18)        table name

        partnum         integer         partnum for this table

        lockreqs        integer         lock requests

        lockwts         integer         lock waits

        deadlks         integer         deadlocks

        lktouts         integer         lock timeouts

        isreads         integer         reads

        iswrites        integer         writes

        isrewrites      integer         rewrites

        isdeletes       integer         deletes

        bufreads        integer         buffer reads

        bufwrites       integer         buffer writes

        seqscans        integer         sequential scans             

        pagreads        integer         disk reads

        pagwrites       integer         disk writes

These tables allow us to develop scripts to display tables, the number of extents, and pages used. We can also present a layout of dbspace, databases, tables, and extents similar to the command "tbcheck -pe". And finally, we can show table usage statistics sorted by which tables have the most hits based on reads, writes, or locks. These scripts will enable a DBA to monitor and tune the database server.

Extents are created when a table's initial space has been filled up and it needs more space. OnLine will allocate additional space for a table. However, the table will no longer be contiguous, and performance will start to degrade. Informix will display warning messages when a table reaches more than 8 extents. Depending on a number of factors, at approximately 180-230 extents a table will not be able to expand and no additional rows can be inserted. The following script lists all tables sorted by the number of extents. The tables that show up with many extents may need to be unloaded and rebuilt.

Figure 13. SQL script showing tables and extents

-- tabextent.sql - List tables, number of extents and size of table.

database sysmaster;

select  dbsname,


        count(*) num_of_extents,

        sum( pe_size ) total_size

from systabnames, sysptnext

where partnum = pe_partnum

group by 1, 2 

order by 3 desc, 4 desc;

Sample Output

dbsname            tabname              num_of_extents       total_size

rootdbs            TBLSpace                          8              400

sysmaster          syscolumns                        6               56

sunset             inventory                         3              376

sunset             sales_items                       3               96

sunset             sales_header                      3               48

sunset             parts                             3               48

sunset             customer                          3               40

sunset             syscolumnext                      3               32

sunset             employee                          3               32

Sometimes it is helpful to see how the tables are interspersed on disk. The following script lists by dbspace each table and the location of each extent. This is similar to the output from "oncheck -pe".

Figure 14. SQL script showing table layout on chunks

-- tablayout.sql - Show layout of tables and extents

database sysmaster;

select dbinfo( "DBSPACE" , pe_partnum ) dbspace,



        pe_phys start,

        pe_size size

from    sysptnext, outer systabnames

where   pe_partnum = partnum

order by dbspace, start;

Sample output

dbspace            dbsname    tabname                  start        size

rootdbs            rootdbs    TBLSpace               1048589          50

rootdbs            sysmaster  sysdatabases           1050639           4

rootdbs            sysmaster  systables              1050643           8

rootdbs            sysmaster  syscolumns             1050651          16

rootdbs            sysmaster  sysindexes             1050667           8

rootdbs            sysmaster  systabauth             1050675           8

rootdbs            sysmaster  syscolauth             1050683           8

rootdbs            sysmaster  sysviews               1050691           8

rootdbs            sysmaster  sysusers               1050699           8

rootdbs            sysmaster  sysdepend              1050707           8

rootdbs            sysmaster  syssynonyms            1050715           8

IO Performance of Tables

Have you ever wanted to know which tables have the most reads, writes, or locks? The last script in this article shows the performance profile of tables. By changing the columns displayed and the sort order of the script, you can display the tables with the most reads, writes, or locks first.

Figure 15. SQL script show table I/O activity

-- tabprof.sql

database sysmaster;




        -- uncomment the following to show writes

        -- iswrites,

        -- bufwrites,

        -- pagwrites

        -- uncomment the following to show locks

        -- lockreqs,

        -- lockwts,

        -- deadlks

from sysptprof

order by isreads desc; -- change this sort to whatever you need to monitor.

Sample Output

dbsname            tabname                isreads    bufreads    pagreads

zip                zip                     334175    35876509        1111

sysmaster          sysviews                259712      634102        1119

sysmaster          systables                60999      240018        1878

zip                systables                 3491        8228         543

sysmaster          sysusers                  2406        8936          87

sysmaster          sysprocauth               1276        5104          12

sunset             systables                  705        2251          26

sysmaster          sysprocedures              640        2562          21

sysmaster          syscolumns                 637        1512          49

stores7            systables                  565        1361          16

sysmaster          sysdatabases               534        2073         902

6. User Session Information

This last set of SMI tables deals with users and information about their sessions. These tables were used in our example script "dbwho" at the beginning of this chapter.

  • syssessions - Session data
  • syssesprof - User statistics
  • syslocks - User Locks
  • syseswts - Wait times

User Session and Connection Information: syssessions

This view contains information from two shared memory structures, the user control and thread control table. This tells you who is logged in to your server and some basic data about their session.

View syssessions


Column          Data Type       Description

        sid             integer         Session id number

        username        char(8)         User name

        uid             smallint        User unix id

        pid             integer         User process id

        hostname        char(16)        Hostname

        tty             char(16)        TTY port

        connected       integer         Time user connected

        feprogram       char(16)        Program name

        pooladdr        integer         Pointer to private session pool

        is_wlatch       integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, wait on latch

        is_wlock        integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, wait on lock

        is_wbuff        integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, wait on buffer

        is_wckpt        integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, wait on checkpoint

        is_wlogbuf      integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, wait on log buffer

        is_wtrans       integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, wait on a transaction

        is_monitor      integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, a monitoring process

        is_incrit       integer         Flag 1=Yes, 0=No, in crtical section

        state           integer         Flags

The following is a quick query to tell who is using your server.

Figure 16. SQL script showing user sessions

-- sessions.sql

select  sid,




        l2date(connected) startdate -- convert unix time to date

from    syssessions

Sample Output

        sid username         pid hostname         startdate

         47 lester         11564 merlin           07/14/1997

This next query list all users and their session status. The objective is to show who is blocked waiting on another user, lock, or some other OnLine process. The five fields are yes/no flags where 1 = yes and 0 = no. If all the fields are 0, then none of the sessions are blocked. In the following example, one session is blocked waiting on a locked record.

Figure 17. SQL script users waiting on resources

-- seswait.sql

select  username,

        is_wlatch,      -- blocked waiting on a latch 

        is_wlock,       -- blocked waiting on a locked record or table

        is_wbuff,       -- blocked waiting on a buffer

        is_wckpt,       -- blocked waiting on a checkpoint

        is_incrit       -- session is in a critical section of transaction

                        --      (e.g writting to disk)

from    syssessions

order by username;

Sample Output

username   is_wlatch    is_wlock    is_wbuff    is_wckpt   is_incrit

lester             0           1           0           0           0

lester             0           0           0           0           0

lester             0           0           0           0           0

User Session Performance Statistics: syssesprof

This view syssesprof provides a way to find out at a given point in time how much of your server resources each user is using. The view contains the following information.

View syssesprof


Column          Data Type       Description

        sid             integer,        Session Id

        lockreqs        decimal(16,0)   Locks requested

        locksheld       decimal(16,0)   Locks held

        lockwts         decimal(16,0)   Locks waits

        deadlks         decimal(16,0)   Deadlocks detected

        lktouts         decimal(16,0)   Deadlock timeouts

        logrecs         decimal(16,0)   Logical Log records written

        isreads         decimal(16,0)   Reads

        iswrites        decimal(16,0)   Writes

        isrewrites      decimal(16,0)   Rewrites

        isdeletes       decimal(16,0)   Deletes

        iscommits       decimal(16,0)   Commits

        isrollbacks     decimal(16,0)   Rollbacks

        longtxs         decimal(16,0)   Long transactions

        bufreads        decimal(16,0)   Buffer reads

        bufwrites       decimal(16,0)   Buffer writes

        seqscans        decimal(16,0)   Sequential scans

        pagreads        decimal(16,0)   Page reads

        pagwrites       decimal(16,0)   Page writes

        total_sorts     decimal(16,0)   Total sorts

        dsksorts        decimal(16,0)   Sorts to disk

        max_sortdiskspace decimal(16,0) Max space used by a sort

        logspused       decimal(16,0)   Current log bytes used 

        maxlogsp        decimal(16,0)   Max bytes of logical logs used

This table contains data since the user logged on. Each time a user disconnects their data is lost so you cannot use this data for charging the user for server usage. Also, when a DBA resets the server statistics with the command "tbstat -z", all profile data is reset to zero.

I like to monitor the number of locks used by each user and their buffer usage. The following is an example query.

Figure 19. SQL script to monitor resource usage by user

-- sesprof.sql

select  username,





from    syssesprof, syssessions

where   syssesprof.sid = syssessions.sid

order by bufreads desc

Active Locks on the Server: syslocks

This view contains information about all active locks on your server. It can be very large; if you have a lot of users and your server is configured to handle a large number of locks, you could end up with hundreds of thousands or more records in this view. This view is composed of six tables, and queries on this view will create a temp table which is logged to your logical log. The performance may be a bit slow because of the sheer volume of data produced by this view. However, the data this view contains can be very helpful to understanding how your system is performing.

View syslocks


Column          Data Type       Description

        dbsname         char(18)        Database name

        tabname         char(18)        Table name

        rowidlk         integer         Rowid for index key lock 

        keynum          smallint        Key number of index key lock

        owner           integer         Session ID of lock owner

        waiter          integer         Session ID of first waiter

        type            char(4)         Type of Lock


Types of Locks

        B       - byte lock

        IS      - intent shared lock

        S       - shared lock

        XS      - repeatable read shared key

        U       - update lock

        IX      - intent exclusive lock

        SIX     - shared intent exclusive 

        X       - exclusive lock

        XR      - repeatable read exclusive

Basically there are three types of locks: a shared lock (S), an exclusive lock (X), and an update lock(U). A shared lock allows other users to also read the data but none may change it. An exclusive lock does not allow anyone else to lock that data even in shared mode. An update lock prevents other users from changing data while you are changing it.

There are six objects that can be locked in OnLine.

  • Database - Every user that opens a database places a shared lock on the database to prevent someone else from dropping the database while it is in use. This shows up as a lock on the sysmaster database and the sysdatabase tables, and the rowid will point to the record containing database name.
  • Table - A table lock shows up as a lock on a table with a rowid of 0 and a keynum of 0.
  • Page - A page level lock shows as a rowid ending in 00. This means all the rows on that page are locked.
  • Row - A row level lock will show with an actual rowid (not ending in 00).
  • Key - A key lock will show with a keynum. If a row has indexes that need to be updated this will place locks on the indexes for that row.

One of the key data elements missing from this view is the username and session id (sid) of the user who has a lock. The following query adds the user's name and session id and uses the underlying tables to improve performance. It also puts the data into a temp table from which you can select subsets of data much more quickly than if you were to repeat the query.

Figure 20. SQL script to show all locks

-- locks.sql

select  dbsname,



        e.txt           type,

        d.sid           owner,

        g.username ownername,

        f.sid           waiter,

        h.username waitname

from    syslcktab a,

        systabnames b,

        systxptab c,

        sysrstcb        d,

        sysscblst g,

        flags_text e,

        outer ( sysrstcb f , sysscblst h  )

where   a.partnum = b.partnum

and     a.owner = c.address

and     c.owner = d.address

and     a.wtlist = f.address

and     d.sid = g.sid

and     e.tabname = 'syslcktab'

and     e.flags = a.type

and     f.sid = h.sid

into temp A;

select  dbsname,




        ownername ,

from A;

Example SQL Output

dbsname    sysmaster

tabname    a
rowidr     0
keynum     0
type       X
owner      47

ownername  lester


The above example SQL output shows the row from syslocks that displays the exclusive lock I created on the temp table "A" while running the query.

A more important use of this query is to find out when one user is waiting on the lock owned by another user. When a user has a database object locked, the first user waiting on the object can be displayed. (This will only occur when a user has set lock mode to WAIT). The following script displays only the users that have locks where someone else is waiting on their process. There is one key difference between this script and the one above. The tables sysrstcb and sysscblst in this script do not use an outer join, so only rows that have waiters will be returned. In this example "linda" has an update lock on a row and "lester" is waiting for that update to complete.

Figure 21. SQL script to show users waiting on locks

-- lockwaits.sql

database sysmaster;

select  dbsname,



        e.txt   type,

        d.sid   owner,

        g.username ownername,

        f.sid   waiter,

        h.username waitname

from    syslcktab a,

        systabnames b,

        systxptab c,

        sysrstcb d,

        sysscblst g,

        flags_text e,

        sysrstcb f , sysscblst h

where   a.partnum = b.partnum

and     a.owner = c.address

and     c.owner = d.address

and     a.wtlist = f.address

and     d.sid = g.sid

and     e.tabname = 'syslcktab'

and     e.flags = a.type

and     f.sid = h.sid

into temp A;

select  dbsname,




        ownername ,

from A;

SQL Output

dbsname            tabname            type       owner ownername waitname

stores7            items              U             29 linda     lester

Wait Status and Times on Objects: sysseswts

This is a supported view that shows all sessions that are blocked and waiting on a database object. It shows the amount of time a user has been waiting. On a well tuned system this table should be empty. However, when the table is not empty, it provides useful information on what is causing your performance to slow down.

View sysseswts


Column          Data Type       Description

        sid             integer         Session ID

        reason          char(50)        Description of reason for wait

        numwaits        integer         Number of waits for this reason

        cumtime         float           Cumulative wait time for this reason

        maxtime         integer         Max wait time for this reason

7. Some Unsupported Extras

Several of the SMI tables are not documented and not officially supported. These could change in future releases. Two additional unsupported tables I have found helpful are systrans and syssqexplain.

User Transactions: systrans

Three of the fields in systrans are very helpful to determine what logical log number a transaction began in, and the current logical log number in use by a transaction.

Key systrans fields


Column          Data Type       Description

        tx_id           integer         pointer to transaction table 

        tx_logbeg       integer         transaction starting logical log        

        tx_loguniq      integer         transaction current logical log number

This can be used to create a script to determine what logical log files have active transactions. The output of this will tell you what logical logs are free and available for reuse. This first script lists all user transactions and what logs they are using.

Figure 22. SQL script to display transactions and logs used

-- txlogpos.sql







from    systrans x, sysrstcb t

where   tx_owner = t.address

SQL Output

username         sid   tx_logbeg  tx_loguniq   tx_logpos

informix           1           0          16      892952

informix           0           0           0           0

informix           8           0           0           0

lester            53           0           0           0

informix          12           0           0           0

lester            51          14          16           0

This shows that my logical logs numbered 14 to 16 are in use by transactions.

Another helpful use of this view is to summarize the transactions by logical logs. This next script show my transaction status by logical log.

Figure 23. SQL script to view logical logs status

-- logstat.sql

database sysmaster;

-- select transaction data into a temp table

select  tx_logbeg,   tx_loguniq

from    systrans

into temp b;

-- count how may transactions begin in each log

select tx_logbeg, count(*) cnt

from B

where tx_logbeg > 0

group by tx_logbeg

into temp C;

-- count how many transactions currently are in each log

select tx_loguniq, count(*) cnt

from B

where tx_loguniq > 0

group by tx_loguniq

into temp D;

-- join data from counts with syslogs


        is_backed_up,   -- 0 = no, 1 = yes log is backed up

        is_archived,    -- 0 = no, 1 = yes log is on last archive

        c.cnt   tx_beg_cnt,

        d.cnt   tx_curr_cnt

from    syslogs, outer c, outer D

where   uniqid = c.tx_logbeg

and     uniqid = d.tx_loguniq

order by uniqid

SQL Output

     uniqid        size is_backed_up is_archived  tx_beg_cnt tx_curr_cnt

         10         500            1           1
         11         500            1           1
         12         500            1           1
         13         500            1           1
         14         500            1           1
         15         500            1           1

         16         500            0           1           1           2

This shows that all logs are backed up except the current one, and it has two active transactions.

User Queries: syssqexplain

Have you ever wanted to run a query to see what your users were doing? The view syssqexplain contains some of the data from a user's session, including the sql that they are currently executing. Try this query on your system sometime to see your user's SQL.

Figure 24. SQL to view current executing SQL

-- syssql.sql

select  username,




from syssqexplain, sysscblst

where   sqx_sessionid = sid

SQL Output

username          lester

sqx_sessionid     55

sqx_conbno        2

sqx_sqlstatement  select username,sqx_sessionid, sqx_conbno, sqx_sqlstatement

                                from syssqexplain, sysscblst

                                where   sqx_sessionid = sid

username          lester

sqx_sessionid     51

sqx_conbno        0

sqx_sqlstatement  update items set total_price = 300 where item_num = 1


The sysmaster database is a great tool for a DBA to monitor the Informix server. If you have any questions or suggestions please send me E-mail at . Also, if you have any creative scripts for monitoring your server with the sysmaster database, please send them in and I may include them in the future publications.


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